White Whale Review: An Online Literary Magazine Untitled Document
Nora Castana
Nora Castana is a writer in New York City. Her nonfiction is altered to protect the privacy of those captured in her work. Names and minor details have been changed or omitted. The lion's share — about 94 - 98 percent — is unaltered, however, and painstakingly real.

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Get Close to Me

Nora Castana



June 16, 2006

Stood on the steps of his building at 6:54 this morning said to myself, savor this moment it’s the best you’ll do for now. Stood in my elevator coming up said to myself do this only as long as you can get out before it causes a genuine problem or more irritation than pleasure.

Yesterday: everything:

Walking down Broadway yesterday afternoon, after sitting on a bench in Riverside Park with Nick, I passed the Loews on 84th Street, saw the poster of my celebrity, and the relentless electronic marquis flashing above, kept walking then passed the sign about “taking a bath” in the window of Laytner’s Linen – my celebrity had laughed when, over a BLT and beer eight months earlier, I asked how that

expression had come about, and why it meant something negative even though, I told him, “a bath is really nice” – and after passing Laytner’s took out my phone and sent him this message:

Too beautiful out. You gotta go 4 a walk with me.

He responded: he’s just back from his first rehearsal, wants to rest.

I offer to drop by.

So temptng, he writes. How come u turn me on so much?

I’ll be there in 20, I write.

He has to run some errands and will text me when he gets back – and in that same message writes: Want 2 make love 2 me? I hav always wantd u but feard u were spokn 4.

I assure him:

I’m not spoken for.
I’m very attracted to you.

Lead the way.

Ur fuckn yummy, he writes. U gve a gd massage? Ive wantd u since the nite we first kisd.

We agree: I’ll come by at 10. (I’ll cancel my plans.) And massage me then lets make swt love, he writes, and then, Fuck i cant wait. Im excitd. R u? (I was.)

At 9:36 he texts that he has a 10:30 radio interview: Should we make it 11 or is that 2 late?

11 is fine, I respond.

A few minutes later he sends: Maybe u changed ur mind. Its ok. Didnt mean 2 put any pressur on u. Xo

I texted you. 11 is fine.

Then nothing from him. It’s 9:48, ten minutes before our original plan to meet, and he’s pretending I’ve cancelled. Does he even know he’s doing this? Is he schizoid? He’s done this three or four times since we first met, and I’ve waited seven months to get back into his apartment.

I wait. I lay in bed and flip tarot cards and talk to Penny Candy and wait. No response. I proceed. I bathe, dress, and go. I’ll walk to Barnes and Noble. I’ll keep my blood pumping and body moving, and I’ll text him at 10:50, and I’ll ring his buzzer at 11, whether he responds or not. I’ll stretch my arms up high and pull myself out of this swamp of victim loser dupe soup. I will focus single-pointedly and will get into his apartment tonight. I will move, think, act as if it’s happening, already happened.

(Walking to Barnes and Noble I call Ari. He says, “It’s just passive aggressive bullshit. I think you should call him on it.”)

There’s a book on the front table at the entrance of Barnes and Noble. “The Master Key System,” written, according to the back cover, in the 20s or 30s, by a German-American mogul. He writes about focus and concentration. He writes about thought finding ways to express itself. He describes thought as an animated living thing that, like organic matter, like a single-celled organism, has a living imperative, its own universal calling. He writes about the actor who focuses so intently, is so

fascinated by one thing, that he disappears and becomes the character. He writes that there is no room for conflicting thoughts. He writes that the laws by which we live are supportive and immutable. He writes that love is the energy behind thought and communicative action, and that love is made up of emotions, so we must guide and control our emotions. He writes that one cannot expect to reverse thirty years of mental dungeoning with fifteen minutes of enlightened thought. He writes that when we build a house we search for the best materials and the best way to construct it, but that we pay little attention to constructing our Mental home, which is the most important structure we have. He writes in short numbered paragraphs, like Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations.” He writes about untiring single-minded focus. He doesn’t write about confidence or self-esteem or guilt (soft core self-help), but about transparent structural facts of nature. Thought is action. The body is a temple for thought and action. Learn your instrument, play it, its capacity is limitless.

At 10:51 I text him: Be there in 15. I go into Il Violino on Columbus Ave to use the bathroom.

Walk to the back, pass through three doors to get to the toilet. Coming back out, between door number one and door number two, the text comes: Where u? I nd a quick showr. Cme at 1115. I do not respond. I go to City Grill and order a spiced rum and ginger ale. I drink and try to remember the pitches for “Taci, senz’avvocato, hai gia vinta la causa.” (Le Nozze di Figaro. “Hush. Without a lawyer, you’ve won your case.”)

At 11:09 he texts again: Come now. I nd ur hands on me.

This makes me the hero of my own life.

He greets me at the door and I’m not ready for it but he dives for me and starts kissing. I taste or smell pot on his lips. “Have you been smoking?” “No – I mean, not cigarettes,” he says. Then he shows me the new dance step he learned at rehearsal. “It’s called the time step. Do you know it?”

I’m tipsy, he’s stoned (and tap dancing), and he’s exhausted from his first rehearsal, and apparently also from a new blood pressure prescription. The

red flag goes up when I see the bottle on the kitchen counter next to a glass of wine, but I’m trying not to worry and am tipsy on half the rum and ginger, which the bartender had made fairly strong. I think I know what happened. From Fuck i cant wait to the attempt to dodge me, I think he couldn’t handle his own excitement. By 10 or 10:30 he’d added the wine and the pot to the fatigue from the rehearsal. He can’t do a basic dinner chat come back to my place move. He does it all in the text message forgetting that I’m going to show up at his door and be real. I’m in now, somehow, but it’s the pills I’m worried about.

“You don’t need the pills,” I say.
“Everyone in my family has high blood pressure,” he says. “You can die from this –”
“You’re not gonna die,” I say.

He sits in a chair in his living room. (But what happened to his ridiculously long sofa, where, seven months ago, he’d sat all the way at one end while I sat all the way at the other drinking a glass of wine and studying his face and feeling the shape of myself appear, expand and contract, in his home.)

“It helps,” he says. “It was no good before, my heart was racing, I was feeling anxious.” I sit on his lap. “That’s because you were anxious.” He doesn’t want me on his lap. He mutters something and asks if I want to read with him. The script is on the coffee table – he knows how to thrill me; like a child I drop to the floor and sit at his knee.

The script is in my hands. “Lyrics and music by ...” We read the opening scenes. The lights in his living room are low, we have our glasses of wine, I’m wearing my new tangerine gossamer silk dress, he’s sitting in his chair I am on the rug and we’re doing scenes from a musical that’s going to open on Broadway in a few months. He sings, even. Wasn’t this alone worth the wait?

Also, I’m struck by the simplicity and clarity in good acting, and the silence and stillness around each gesture.

By some pretense – that massage – we go to his bedroom. (My tangerine gossamer silk dress is permanently stained from the lotion, Aveeno, and every time I see that stain I remember how upset

he got that I didn’t warm the lotion in my hands before I started – I’d squeezed it directly from the bottle onto his back, which caused him worry about me as a lover and possibly to worry about having let me back into his apartment.)

Other things I can remember from his bedroom:

“I love you in ... ” How did he finish that sentence? In my bed? In my arms?

“My little reader,” he calls me.

“Your ass,” he says. “I knew you had a good body, but I didn’t know...so full and round...I would take care of that ass,” he said, “Spoil you.”

Enormous warmth and sensuality in him. He sits leaning against his headboard, I am straddling him, he’s taken the straps of my dress down, he’s sucking my breasts and whispering about my sweetness. I knew. I knew it would feel this way with him. I knew I would feel cradled with him. Warm hands, warm arms circling around me: where does all the light inside him come from?


September 2005
Gold-flecked mirrors

New York is a mystical city where things and people, memories and desires, emerge as from a mist, then vanish, as in an underwater dream, back into darkness.

New York is made of mist and concrete, cloud, rain, brilliant sun, and mirrored surfaces that reflect everything; even the streets are mirrors: the silver flecks in the streets – scrap, recycled waste, archeological remnants – the silver and gold flecks mirror mood and hopes, compel likely realities and unfathomable destiny.

New York shifts slowly and continuously its kaleidoscope of cloud, rain, brilliant sun, and mirrored surfaces, and I, unable to rest in my own body, let myself be lulled by the city and let Broadway, a great whale of a boulevard, swallow me whole and tumble me forward.

I walked alone up Broadway one September evening until, a block from my apartment, I passed

a man with dark hair, intense, serious eyes, and a direct, open gaze. We made eye contact and kept walking, and then in the street-gleam of the silver-and-tar flecks that magnify a soul’s desire, I stopped, turned around, and watched him turn around. From opposite sides of the cross street we looked at each other. He waited, I approached. I crossed lightly the moonlit river of scraps and remnants, and in this magnified intimacy we stood face to face.

“I feel like I keep running into you up here,” I said, and then, “I feel like I know you from somewhere.”

“Well,” he said, “I played a role on a TV show...”

I knew the show and thought I recognized his face, but I knew also that we’d made eye contact once or twice before up here, and I felt, looking through his glasses into his eyes, that he was familiar to me in any number of non-celebrity ways in which one stranger can be familiar to another.

We talked for a minute about nothing, and then I said, “Listen, would you like to get a drink?”

“I’d like to,” he said, “but I’m meeting someone for dinner.”

And then this figment, this fantasy, asked for my number. He keyed it into his cell and showed me on the little screen a picture of his young daughter. He showed me the picture not exactly out of pride or even affection, but as if I were a guest in his home and he were pointing out objects he’d picked up on a recent vacation, or demonstrating a new electronic gadget – as men like to do. Now his eyes were shifting and he spoke in a nervous drone. I disregarded his nervousness and held fast to the previous moment when I’d taken that clear, moonlit path that had carried me directly to where we now stood, breast to breast, eye to eye.

We said goodnight. He called the next night from a hotel bar in Nova Scotia where he was filming something for the Hallmark channel. “Hi,” his message said, because I’d been afraid to pick up, “I’m in Halifax…I should have had that drink with you last night. It would have been much nicer than the evening I ended up having.”


June 16, 2006, again

I came to him wanting nurturing, blind intimacy, excitement.

More red flags, more problems:

I left the bed to use the bathroom, and when I came back he sat covering himself with his hand.

When he went to get the condom, I was a fool and I couldn’t help myself: He leaned over the foot of the bed and reached into a chest of drawers, and I smacked his ass, I couldn’t help myself, and I think it hurt him! But worse, I think it shamed him.
“You eclipsed me,” he said.
“What do you mean?” I said.
“You outdid me,” he said. “You’re unpredictable.”

He rushed to start. How could he rush, how could be so rushed? He tried to get hard by fucking me. After a minute he said, “It’s not moving.”

He laughed. “It’s not getting hard.”
(The pills? The slap? Too much Time Step?)
We didn’t finish – we barely started – but I felt how he does it. Of course, he’s a dancer: he moves his hips. He moves slowly. It’s liquid and low.

(What can you do? He won’t let you go at a living pace. He won’t let it unfold naturally. He rushes it, and it doesn’t happen. He won’t let you be aggressive, but if you’re silent and receptive, you can’t contribute.)

Other things he said:
“I want to be inside you in every way.”
Every way?”
“Well, every way that’s reasonable.”

And he even started a sentence: “If I ever get inside of you...”
(Why do you think I’m here, actually? I’m right here.)

My heartbeat: Did it happen before or after? I told him that my heartbeat is irregular. He lay his head on my chest and listened. That was real. That was

real because there was no choice – he had to stay with the inhale and the exhale. He noticed that my heartbeat on the inhale is much faster than the exhale, and that was a real moment, because anything that follows the heart is real. Real can happen at any moment, but can you both be there at the same time?

I liked being in his bedroom. Take the luxury of being with a grownup man in his grownup bedroom in a pricey Upper West Side apartment, add the fascination of being with a Tony winning Broadway veteran and movie and TV star: I could not help seeking secrets in every grain of wood, every painting, the color and length of the curtains, the color and comfort of the bedspread and the impossible thickness of the pillows, the skyline view from a small window above the air conditioner, his laptop on a chair next to the bed, and on the bedside table a small art class project his 5-year-old daughter made ...

Worried all night about waking him up. Never felt so klutzy. My finger nails scraping the pillow, my elbow or knee bumping him, the door creaking

when I went the bathroom. Didn’t want to wake him – his second rehearsal was at 10 that morning. (I forgot he was stoned and on beta blockers.) I dreamt about him all night. In the morning his warmth was magnetic but I knew I was no longer welcome there, I knew the window had closed again. Maybe when I’m past this terror stage, he said, as I was leaving. Not about you, about the rehearsals.


Silver confetti fairy dreams

Time behaves oddly in the Mystical City.

For instance, any given moment can drift upward and cling to a drop of mist, which never evaporates, only floats perpetually through skyscraper canyons, past windows, traffic lights, and fire escapes.

For instance, I was standing at a curb one afternoon, holding a bag of groceries and waiting for the light to change, when, somewhere in midtown, a segment of mist with a drop of my

memory passed a bus with his image – a poster in garish Broadway hues – and then drifted back to me, returning a drop of my memory and distorting my own personal timeline. Before the mist, I was just standing at a curb. Then the mist came, and I was transported – in my mind, which is many parts mist – back into his apartment, the first night, when he first kissed me.

It was a Sunday, mid-December, 2005. I was leaving him at his doorway, not because I wanted to, and I’d called the elevator. He reached for me: “One more,” he said, his face distorted with longing. I went to him, and we kissed more in the hall. He looked at me but didn’t smile. He looked miserable with desire, and as we kissed and I clung to his flesh I seemed to be slipping down the great spiral staircase behind me, falling eleven flights as the thick wooden banister unbraided itself down eleven floors, and the black and white hallway tiles echoed the whisper of my presence, my tenuous connection to him. Naked, indifferent echo. Raw, aching open echo. The elevator arrived.

How long ago was that night? One year? Two? More?

I know for a fact that it happened. I’d sat on his sofa with a glass of red wine, stood in his kitchen and ate leftover pizza, stared into the lights on his Christmas tree, sat on his sofa again while he played his piano and sang and filled the room with a fine and strange energy that was magical – impossibly magical, and impossible.

I know for a fact that it happened, because I know one other thing about that night. It was the night I became real to the tobacco store manager. For months I’d been going to the tobacco store around the corner from my apartment to buy penny candies. I went several times a week – after acting classes, dates, movies, dinners– and the manager had never spoken to me. He typically denied me even eye contact. But that night, after my celebrity released me (it wasn’t even midnight!) I went to the cigar store and stood quietly picking from the glass jars on the counter, and the manager said:

“Where have you been?”

I looked up. “Me?”

Yes, me. An accumulation of love and adoration had emerged and arrived for me that evening. There was more: along with the cigar store manager, one of the counter guys from the deli next door was also there just then. Kenny knew my name and always smiled and said hello in a shy, respectful flirtation. And there I was, standing over the candies, receiving Kenny’s smile and the manager’s warm gesture, which was probably reserved for family or close friends:

Where have you been?

Glowing with slow-release passion and silver-confetti fairy dreams, I paid for an extra-long Tootsie roll (25 cents), two miniature York Peppermint Patties (30 cents total), and one caramel cube (10 cents), and drifted back to my apartment.

Had I myself been unreal before that night?

Did it take a figment – an encounter with a figment, a fantasy – to fill my dream-anemic cheeks with blood, fill my longing-weary eyes with light and warmth, so that I could stand, simply stand, and be seen, acknowledged?

My celebrity can see my building from his kitchen window – the side of my building. When there’s construction, we hear the same relentless drilling. In an emergency we hear the same sirens. He’s that close to me. What he hears, I hear. What he sees, from his very window, I long to see. I long for someone else’s eyes; I long for his mad and magical eyes. I longed and longed, even though I knew – I knew – he was as mad as he was magical.


In the Mystical City, personal and urgent messages are transmitted in a flash.

The rumbling voice of the Mystical City comes from the underwater dream.

The voice travels through the mist and surfaces in fragments of overheard conversation, scraps of newspaper lying or fluttering in the street, signs in store windows, snippets of the near side of a cell phone conversation, and even strangers speaking directly to you.

Fact: The mist divides when it’s urgent that you see something or run into someone.

Fact: Concrete bends and traffic shifts to alter your trajectory.

Fact: Messages come so clearly in the Mystical City that there is perpetual accountability here. (Wrong-headed behavior generates consequences immediately, and the consequences continue until you stop.)

In the Mystical City you live as if in a glass display case in a museum of your own life, and whatever you do is on display for your own edification. New York is made of glass and light and cool high walls and sleek waterfalls, and you can walk endlessly through your own open-air museum, making mistakes and creating new waterfalls and high walls, and the more you create, the more likely you are to create more.


October 2005
High walls and waterfalls

New York, made of mist, concrete, and sheer, sleek waterfalls, delivers blunt messages rapidly. October, two months before the night of Christmas lights and spiral staircases, I’d met my celebrity for a beer, a “date” which ended about seventy minutes after it began. After I’d eaten most of a BLT and picked fat French fries off his plate, after watching him trace the veins on the back of my hand (he called my skin pink and blue), after walking under scaffolding back to my apartment and feeling myself shifting in irritation and anger, and feeling a strange creeping sensation of attraction along with a feeling of having been stripped of beauty – he had a way of testing and denying me – after that quick and greasy date, the city responded.

The response came at a restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen where I met a girlfriend for dinner. She was there with a composer who worked in television and musical theater. “I just had the strangest date,” I told them. “With who?” the composer asked. “Well, he’s kind of famous.” “What’s his name?” asked the composer. I told them his name. “Oh, he’s crazy,” the composer said. “I used to date his former publicist. I used to call her, and she’d say, ‘I

have to go, I’m on the phone with him, and he’s driving me crazy.’ And he has issues with women. He usually has three or four girlfriends at a time, and he has an older daughter he rarely visits or communicates with...”


April 28 or 29? 2007

My celebrity pursued me for a week, strictly out of nowhere and in the smallest meanest way possible, in text messages, with phrases like “cum deep inside u” and conceits like “always wanted,” then dropped me without even a courtesy apology or excuse – once I asked what night would work for him.

May 1, 2007

It was: “Hey beautiful!”

I’m walking up Amsterdam, he calls out from half a block away, walks towards me.

Charm, smiles. Genuine?


The exchange may have lasted 29 seconds. I don’t think I said a word. I could only study him, transfixed, and even transfixed I wondered what it was about his face, which is slightly bizarre and angular and clownish, wonder why I find him attractive, and could think only about the text he sent a few hours earlier, and the seriousness of the e-mail I’d sent him a few days earlier, and how strange it was to see him in the flesh after all this fantasy, all this nonsense – and on YouTube, and the DVDs – but the look on my face was mostly, I imagine, just mild awe and breathless adoration, which is how I feel about him fundamentally. I don’t think I said anything.

“Hey beautiful!” he said.
“Hey,” maybe I said.
“You look good,” he said, maybe. Or maybe, “How are you,” and maybe I said, “Good.” Just breathing him in, with all the other stuff rolling in my brain.
“I have to run, I’m in a rush to get to work,” he said.
It’s too fast, it’s all too fast for me. I’m lost in his face, and he dominates the moment. He leans in

(really, bounds toward me) and kisses me on the lips. Same kiss as five months ago on 42nd Street outside the Times Square subway station. Same kiss. Same damn kiss, and it lands the same damn way, like a golden licorice nib on my lips – his two lips on my two lips. “You look good,” he says, looks down at my boots, my calves – on this grudging cloudy May day – the pink skirt flowing out from under my jacket.

There was nothing I could say.

Just came from yoga...?

Why the hell won’t you call me?...?

Still wanna cum deep inside me?...

Good to see you...??

That one might have worked, but I was stunned. The colors of his face and hair stun me. His hat stuns me. His jacket...words on the jacket? Words on the shirt? Everything about him stuns me. And the color of his hair, dyed for the show I guess, is the color of the hair of the mad cat in my dream.

Same color, same wild straw texture. And he looks like he’s lost weight, looks lean and vital.


December 2005, again
A small red velvet glow

Because he pulled me so close that night – the night of Christmas lights and spiral staircases – because I loved the softness of his fleece jacket pressing into the softness of my fur jacket (fake), because he took a gentle fistful of my hair and tugged my head to one side and said, “I like your hair...your face,” and because he said it, Get close to me, I did it. I got close to him.

The web he wrapped me in that night was: leave me – stay there.

Butterfly in a crystalline case, alive.

Icy waterfall with brilliant rainbow.

It had been an hour and a half in his living room, his nervousness and discomfort closing in on me like a fence. It had been an hour and a half of me

sitting on one end of his long sofa wondering why he sat all the way at the other end. We sat there and I occasionally adored the way his white socks peaked out from the cuffs of his blue jeans. We sat there and while he spoke I was startled at the way his face, when he did turn to me – he often looked away – flickered from a recognizable television actor to a malleable character actor and back again to a middle-aged man with middle-aged skin and intelligent, suspicious eyes.

It had been an hour and a half of him moving around his living room like a cat pacing around another cat in the widest possible arc, looking for objects to present to me or presentations to make for me. He took sheet music from his piano bench, sat and played and sang a song from a musical he’d auditioned for but had not been cast in.

He played a Beatles CD and showed me the tiny remote control with, I believe, just one button. He asked if I’d sing for him. I declined.

“You’re easy to entertain,” he said.

“I don’t need to be entertained,” I said. “When you like being with someone, it doesn’t really

matter what they do.” I was holding the glass of red wine he’d given me and leaning against the arm of his sofa, looking for a comfortable way to be, to nestle – he was so far away.

“You’re right,” he said.

He mentioned that the lyrics for “Norwegian Wood” had originally been, Knowing she would. “Isn’t it good,” he said, “knowing she would.”

“The context?” I said – genuinely unsure.

“Knowing she would fuck him,” he said, and walked to the kitchen for more wine.

Possibly, he’d rather know it than do it.

I’d rather do it, knowing nothing.

I stayed those ninety minutes waiting – in that metallic cocoon, the soul-sticking web he wrapped around me – not only because it had taken four months to get there after Hi, I’m in Halifax. And not only because I’d endured several last-minute cancellations and a few ignored plans. And not only because of the thrill, in that strange web, to see each word I spoke take a shadowed form as it

traveled through his Escher-like maze of complication, to see each word emerge in the room as a new gem of courage. Not only that. (And not because he was famous.)

I stayed because of what I realized when he sat at his piano and, his back to me, sang a song I would never otherwise care to listen to or care about:

I liked being in the room with him.

That was it.

 *   *   *

After an hour or so of his pacing madness I said, “Do you have any of that pizza leftover?” (He’d just had pizza and salad, he told me in an e-mail before I came over.)

“Oh! Yes!”

Something simple: I was hungry, he could be a host. I was in need, he could supply. I went to his kitchen, the smallest space in his apartment, and oriented myself there – stood on one foot, other foot on my calf, opened the box of pizza, started to pick.

“Can I pick?”

“Oh, yes! Of course, sweetie!”

I picked, and launched freely, happily, into a monolog I wrote for him on the spot. I told him about the blueberry muffins I’d made my father for his birthday, and how, after a series of responses and events which had lead me to pack them individually in plastic baggies and hide them in various places in my father’s home office and parents’ bedroom, I discovered what could only have been an outsized white dildo in my father’s night table.

“It was so big, and shaped sort of like a rocket,” I told him, molding it in the air with my hands. “I actually wasn’t sure what it was when I first saw it.”

“Maybe he’s getting his prostate massaged,” he said, and then, “Remind me never to show you my toys...”

Still. Still not enough to charm him, calm him. Still needed more. Or less.

I turned to look out his window. “I can see your building from here,” he said, came up behind me.

Touched my waist, ribs. Now we’re home, now we’re free, I thought. He backed away – left me there with the echo of that magnetic warmth, left me there.

It wasn’t until I put my coat on that he approached me, face on, body to body. He hugged me. That’s it, I thought. That’s all I’m getting.

I moved to leave, but he found another object to study: the bottle of wine on the kitchen counter, words in Latin on the label. He asked if I knew what the words meant. No idea. He said something about etymology.

I smiled, said, “Bugs.”

(I knew it was words.)

He laughed. Got him.

“No, that’s entomology,” he said, came to me. Kissed me.

I like your hair, your face...Get close to me...

His hair, at the neck, smelled like anisette cake and warm coffee and milk. His neck and mouth smelled and tasted like cupcake sprinkles one moment, lamb the next.

Maybe we can get dinner one night after my

show – will you send me messages, you know, like I did?

“You can call me, you know,” I said. He didn’t like that. But kept kissing. My left armpit started to sweat. That meant I was beyond myself, I was into fear, longing, self-protective and on the edge of abandoning everything.

He followed me, ushered me out, while kissing me, through the foyer and into the hall by the elevator. “One more,” he said. Everything in him darkened and descended. There were no smiles. His face seemed weighted with a miserable desire, he looked at me with a deep red-wine low-flowing desire, flowing from an underground river. It was hopeless, I felt, and the blossom in my cheek was a quiet, childish, very small glow in the mid-December evening.


It’s three years of running into him now.

Quick kisses on the street, strange neurosis (his), stubborn desire (mine.)

For example: I’m on my way to an off-Broadway show, he’s on his way to his own show, he taps my shoulder at the turnstiles in Times Square: I compliment his purple scarf, he tells me he’s been meaning to respond to my last message. We navigate the pre-theater crowd together, climb the stairs to 42nd Street, he kisses me and says we have to get together.

For example: concrete shifts, traffic patterns alter, and he appears: he’s tired, just came from being with his kid, wishes we could get a glass of wine, but we can’t; he looks me up and down in a strange, canned way, tells me I look good, leaves.

For example: the kaleidoscope shifts, sun floods Broadway, he creeps up behind my left side, we talk. He’s worried that the new high-rise, if it keeps getting higher, will block his sunlight – he doesn’t worry about the view, it’s the sun.

For example: my head fills with mist and confetti, and I send sweet or simple text messages to him – or sometimes messages I think are funny but which he takes seriously, for example: Gimme some luv.

He may or may not respond. Responses are usually filthy suggestions followed by excuses. His suggestions get increasingly smutty over time. It’s possible that I have not wanted beauty or love, all along, but have wanted the monster, have wanted to kiss the monster – which is narcissism, pure, manic, the appetite that’s never sated. It’s also possible I’ve wanted love and beauty.

He’s lodged in my brain. He’s entered a portion of my brain and denuded it of time, judgment, consequence, logic.

A brain in that special condition may be the color and texture of love and art – red, velvet – but love and art without roots spin and plummet. Love and the impulses of art, without the earth, without a bed to lie in, without covers or at least the shelter of a starry or black night sky, love and art without a home are like a scrappy Dickens criminal childling. Anything could happen – which means that anything could happen.

I was there. I know it. Mist or no mist. I stood in his kitchen and he came up behind me and pointed to

my building across Broadway. He cupped his hand at the bottom of my right rib. “What’s that big zigzag going down it?” I asked. “Which?” “That,” I said, and traced the sixteen story black pipe shrunk down to three abstract inches in his kitchen window. “Probably some kind of exhaust pipe.” Crazy, I thought, how ignorant I am of all the fundamental details of structure and function – of my very life in this city. He removed his hand and left me standing alone at his window, missing his warmth, which was a great magnet. (New York is made of mist, concrete, and great magnetic objects.) Possibly my celebrity just had the warmth and magnetism any performer accumulates over two decades on a Broadway stage. Possibly it was something else. Possibly he had the kind of warmth I seem always to seek out like a burrowing animal, blind, driven by instinct, seeking security in the still, dark underground.




Copyright© Nora Castana. White Whale Review, issue 3.1


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